Wednesdays aren’t usually good for big baseball news around Kauffman Stadium, especially as the bad season the KC Royals are having grinds toward a merciful end. That’s probably why today’s mid-morning tweet from Kansas City Star KC beat writer Lynn Worthy (Twitter link), that John Sherman was scheduled to meet the press later in the day at The K, undoubtedly surprised many.
Predictions of what club principal owner Sherman had on his mind ran expectedly and understandably rampant. Responses ranged from serious comments and projections to jokes, sarcasm, and cynicism.
Some believed Sherman would announce the dismissals of manager Mike Matheny, President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore, or pitching coach Cal Eldred. Or perhaps all, or none, of the above.
Others considered an update on a potential downtown stadium the most likely subject.
Still others thought Sherman would do nothing more than try to pump optimism into what seems to be an increasingly pessimistic and indifferent fanbase.
Easy to dismiss, though, especially for those who’ve followed this franchise closely for any appreciable length of time, was any notion that Sherman would have earth-shattering news. The Royals are a team not prone to make seismic moves this late in a season.
Wrong. Sherman’s announcement was anything but minor.
Long time club executive Dayton Moore’s days with the KC Royals are over.
Sherman wasted no time delivering his biggest news since he purchased a controlling interest in the Kansas City franchise. Within seconds of assuming the podium, he announced that Moore, who Sherman promoted to President of Baseball Operations just a year ago, is leaving the club effective immediately, and that J.J. Picollo, General Manager until today, is taking over with the new title of Executive Vice President and General Manager.
That Moore, who took over as General Manager shortly before the 2006 amateur draft and served in that capacity until Sherman moved him up a notch last September, is out isn’t stunning. Despite assembling the teams that flirted with a playoff spot in 2013, made the World Series in 2014 but lost it in seven games to San Francisco, then became World Champions the next year, Moore presided over losing teams in all but three of his seasons in Kansas City. That last fact alone can’t be ignored or truly discounted.
He deserves huge accolades and thanks for his triumphs, of course, but his stumbles were significant. Moore tried, but failed, to make the adjustments necessary to return the club to the World Series; glaringly unfortunate was the ill-fated trade 2017 deadline deal he made for Brandon Maurer as he strove to squeeze one more pennant out of the club before core players Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar became eligible for free agency after the season.
His efforts to secure a competitive future via expensive contract extensions also sputtered. Danny Duffy, signed to a five-year $65 million deal in January 2017 that bought out his first foray into free agency, never repeated the kind of season (12-3 in 2016) that triggered the move. Alex Gordon’s bat never lived up to the four-year $72 million extension he signed after the 2015 campaign. And Hunter Dozier has yet to show why the Royals gave him a $25 million, four season contract last year. (The jury is still out on Salvador Perez’s big deal, but it will likely succeed).
What part, if any, the controversial comments Moore reportedly made recently in response to The Athletic’s story concerning organizational pitching development (subscription required), played in his sudden departure is unknown, but these, reported by 610SportsRadio’s Josh Vernier, couldn’t have helped him retain his position overseeing the baseball side of the Royals’ business:
To his credit, Moore responded today with class. Surely it was extraordinarily difficult for him to first stand alongside Sherman as his boss delivered the news, and then take the floor himself and speak well of his years with the Royals.
Picollo is in charge now and faces many challenges and decisions. The Royals (59-89) are dangerously close to losing 100 games for the third time in the last four full seasons. Collectively, their pitchers are, at least statistically, among the worst in the majors, and their hitting requires much work. Fan disenchantment with Matheny and Eldred are palpable.
Picollo has no reason to make changes before this day is out; with only 14 games left in this disappointing season, any serious overhaul should occur after the club finishes its season Oct. 5 in Cleveland.
But Picollo needs to roll up his sleeves, consider where the Royals are, and be ready and willing to make the tough decisions and moves necessary to get this team on track.
The Dayton Moore years are over. J.J. Picollo’s begin now.